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Sunday Stories: Full Gass on Being Open

I’m jealous. So jealous I’m too ashamed to write out all my a’s. Who needs a’s anyway when you’re feeling a straight b? Flat, no capitals. Jealous of Gass, jealous of not letting the bile get out. I self-labeled myself the eternal cultural optimist and one must live up to one’s label nowadays or find no place in society’s shelves; shelf or be shelved, although that sounds better than it means. Such is the story of my life that I have self-censored what probably is my only real aptitude in it: a mild inclination to sarcasm, well-founded in an all-out hatred for ‘the way things are’. I am a self-made man in being the bottle for my own bile – only releasing some of its steam at moments of social stress such as dinner parties or occasions where I’m forced to listen (to dumb people, I wanted to add but one only ever listens to dumb people because only dumb people have a tendency to speak on public occasions).

So, as a matter of self-preservation, I need to find a way to reconcile both bile and optimism, so as to avoid bliss-less eternity too. Here goes the argument. Its form is to neutralize -1 and +1 to leave just N.

I just blame it on my generation. The next one will be better. The previous one certainly was worse. But this fact is as sad as it exonerates the individuals in it because the whole invariably holds down the parts, which can be glanced from the honor we award our heroes of the past who, at their own expense, made such that our present is not as bad as their past was. In general terms at least because individually our heroism won’t ever match theirs. That’s probably why they did their heroic things: to diminish the opportunity for it in the generations following and procuring their top spot in the all-time hall of fame.

Still following? See if I care (‘I do. I do!’. It was just a turn of phrase).

Things are better then for my generation. Notwithstanding this, we do worse. We consume the goodwill of our heroes of days gone by. Where they lived in the future so they could be like us, we live in the past so we can be like them.

It came to me when reading Wittgenstein (I read Wittgenstein, you know). We are educated to judge by the rules. We stand in judgment of the others. We’re a generation of judges of our peers and, as Gass has it: “In short, the students write largely in fear of the disfavor of their peers.” Forget about Davidon’s principle of charity, and the Gricean principle of co-operation too. This is the generation of manufactured competition. We are computerized man. Inequality is the fault of those who are not equal, despite the best efforts of our heroes. Such is the popular opinion because however unequal you are yourself, there are others who will be more unequal still. Their fault, your merit and merit is everything in a court that rules out chance, luck and uncertainty.

The probable is too insecure for a generation that knows no self-doubt and is grounded in achievements, in the struggle to be upbeat. Certainty, not ATM’s, is replacing cash in our society. In this connectionless time, connections are traded as slaves used to be; we look at their teeth, pinch their muscles and deny those who fall short their uniform so they may whither away doing half a job at a quarter of the earnings.

LW says: “Must I not begin to trust somewhere? That is to say: somewhere I must begin with not-doubting; and that is not, so to speak, hasty but excusable: it is part of judging.”

Which is why the next generation will be better, cured as it will have to be from the cleanliness of mine. As the older LW was cured from the younger LW, who built the scaffold of clarity allowing to climb to the non-judgmental judgment one is forced to make to make progress and allow creativity (for instance to repeat ‘to make’ twice, one on the back of the other). My children feel the exasperation with the current – where parts are assembled without looking at the whole, where nature is fucked up because there’s always somebody to fuck it up harder, where the language game is not played anymore but enforced, where innovation trumps invention because everything has to be because of something specific. They will have no choice but to make things better as they will live in the black hole of a century that wasted progress on personal agenda’s.

One is almost always better than one’s generation. I certainly am better than mine. It will be my downfall. Eternal recurrence, of sorts.

May 25, 2015 - Posted by | books, life of the mind, Sunday Stories, waking up in a cold sweat, Wittgenstein | ,

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